All things prospered with me in my college life. I had a sunny room commanding a fine prospect, and uncle Jacob's parting liberality enabled me to furnish it commodiously.

I bought the furniture of a departing senior at a reduced price, and felt quite the spirit of a householder in my possessions. I was well prepared on my studies and did not find my tasks difficult.

My stock of interior garnishment included several French lithographs, for the most part of female heads, looking up, with very dark bright eyes, or looking down, with very long dark eyelashes.

These heads of dream-women are, after all, not to be laughed at; they show the yearning for womanly influences and womanly society which follows the young man in his enforced monastic seclusion from all family life and family atmosphere. These little fanciful French lithographs, generally, are chosen for quite other than artistic reasons. If we search into it we shall find that one is selected because it is like sister "Nell," and another puts one in mind of "Bessie," and then again, there is another "like a girl I used to know." Now and then one of them has such a piquant, provoking air of individuality, that one is sure it must have been sketched from nature. Some teasing, coaxing, "don't-care-what-you-think" sort of a sprite, must have wreathed poppies and blue corn-flowers just so in her hair, and looked gay defiance at the artist who drew it. There was just such a saucy, spirited gipsy over my mantel piece, who seemed to defy me to find her if I searched the world over—with whom I held sometimes airy colloquies—not in the least was she like my dream-wife, but I liked her for all that, and thought I would "give something" to know what she would have to say to me, just for the curiosity of the thing.

The college was in a little village, and there was no particular amity between the townspeople and the students. I believe it is the understanding in such cases, that college students are to be regarded and treated as a tribe of Bedouin Arabs, whose hand is against every man, and they in their turn are not backward to make good the character. Public opinion shuts them up together—they are a state within a state—with a public sentiment, laws, manners, and modes of thinking of their own. It is a state, too, without women. When we think of this, and remember that all this experience is gone through in the most gaseous and yeasty period of human existence, we no longer wonder that there are college rows and scrapes, that all sort of grotesque capers become hereditary and traditional; that an apple-cart occasionally appears on top of one of the steeples, that cannon balls are rolled surreptitiously down the college stairs, and that tutors' doors are mysteriously found locked at recitation hours. One simply wonders that the roof is not blown off, and the windows out, by the combined excitability of so many fermenting natures.

There is a tendency now in society to open the college course equally to women—to continue through college life that interaction of the comparative influence of the sexes which is begun in the family.

To a certain extent this experiment has been always favorably tried in the New England rural Academies, where young men are fitted for college in the same classes and studies with women.

In these time-honored institutions, young women have kept step with young men in the daily pursuit of science, not only without disorder or unseemly scandal, but with manifestly more quietness and refinement of manner than obtains in institutions where female association ceases altogether. The presence of a couple of dozen of well-bred ladies in the lecture and recitation rooms of a college would probably be a preventive of many of the unseemly and clumsy jokes wherewith it has been customary to diversify the paths of science, to the affliction of the souls of professors.

But for us boys, there was no gospel of womanhood except what was to be got from the letters of mothers and sisters, and such imperfect and flitting acquaintance as we could pick up in the streets with the girls of the village. Now though there might be profit, could young men and women see each other daily under the responsibility of serious business, keeping step with one another in higher studies, yet it by no means follows that this kind of flitting glimpse-like acquaintance, formed merely in the exchange of a few outside superficialities, can have any particularly good effect. No element of true worthy friendship, of sober appreciation, or manly or womanly good sense, generally enters into these girl-and-boy flirtations, which are the only substitute for family association during the barren years of student life. The students were not often invited into families, and those who gained a character as ladies' men were not favorably looked upon by our elders. Now and then by rare and exceptional good luck a college student is made at home in some good family, where there is a nice kind mother and the wholesome atmosphere of human life; or, he forms the acquaintance of some woman, older and wiser than himself, who can talk with him on all the multitude of topics his college studies suggest. But such cases are only exceptions. In general there is no choice between flirtation and monastic isolation.

For my part, I posed myself on the exemplary platform, and remembering my uncle Jacob's advice, contemplated life with the grim rigidity of a philosopher. I was going to have no trifling, and surveyed the girls at church, on Sunday, with a distant and severe air—as gay creatures of an hour, who could hold no place in my serious meditations. Plato or Aristotle, in person, could not have contemplated life and society from a more serene height of composure. I was favorably known by my teachers, and held rank at the head of my class, and was stigmatized as a "dig," by frisky young gentlemen who enjoyed rolling cannon balls down stairs—taking the tongue out of the chapel bell—greasing the seats, and other thread-bare college jokes, which they had not genius enough to vary, so as to give them a spice of originality.

But one bright June Sunday—just one of those days that seem made to put all one's philosophy into confusion, when apple-blossoms were bursting their pink shells, and robins singing, and leaves twittering and talking to each other in undertones, there came to me a great revelation.

How innocently I brushed my hair and tied my neck tie, on that fateful morning, contemplating my growing moustache and whiskers hopefully in the small square of looking-glass which served for me these useful purposes of self-knowledge. I looked at my lineaments as those of a free young junior, without fear and without anxiety, without even an incipient inquiry what anybody else would think of them—least of all any woman—and marched forth obediently and took my wonted seat in that gallery of the village church which was assigned to the college students of Congregational descent; where, like so many sheep in a pen, we joined in the services of the common sheep-fold.

I suppose there is moral profit even in the decent self-denial of such weekly recurring religious exercises. To be forced to a certain period of silence, order, quiet, and to have therein a possibility and a suggestion of communion with a Higher Power, and an out-look into immortality, is something not to be undervalued in education, and justifies the stringency with which our New England colleges preserve and guard this part of their régime.

But it was to be confessed in our case, that the number who really seemed to have any spiritual participation or sympathy in the great purposes of the exercises, was not a majority. A general, dull decency of demeanor was the most frequent attainment, and such small recreations were in vogue as could be pursued without drawing the attention of the monitors. There was some telegraphy of eyes between the girls of the village and some of the more society-loving fellows, who had cultivated intimacies in that quarter; there were some novels, stealthily introduced and artfully concealed and read by the owner, while his head, resting on the seat before him, seemed bowed in devotion; and some artistic exercises in sketching caricatures on the part of others. For my own part, having been trained religiously, I gave strict outward and decorous attention; but the fact was that my mind generally sailed off on some cloud of fancy, and wandered through dream-land, so that not a word of anything present reached my ear. This habit of reverie and castle-building, repressed all the week by the severe necessity of definite tasks, came upon me Sundays as Bunyan describes the hot, sleepy atmosphere of the enchanted ground.

Our pastor was a good man, who wrote a kind of smooth, elegant, unexceptionable English; whose measured cadences and easy flow, were, to use the scripture language, as a "very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play sweetly upon an instrument." I heard him as one hears murmurs and voices through one's sleep, while my spirit went everywhere under the sun. I traveled in foreign lands, I saw pictures, cathedrals; I had thrilling adventures and hair-breadth escapes; formed strange and exciting acquaintances; in short, was the hero of a romance, whose scenes changed as airily and easily as the sunset clouds of evening. So really and so vividly did this supposititious life excite me that I have actually found myself with tears in my eyes through the pathos of these unsubstantial visions.

It was in one of the lulling pauses of such a romance, while I yet heard the voice of our good pastor proving that "selfishness was the essence of moral evil," that I lifted up my eyes, and became for the first time conscious of a new face, in the third pew of the broad aisle below me. It was a new one—one that certainly had never been there before, and was altogether just the face to enter into the most ethereal perceptions of my visionary life. I started with a sort of awakening thrill, such, perhaps, as Adam had when he woke from his sleep and saw his Eve. There, to be sure, was the face of my dream-wife, incarnate and visible! That face, so refined, so spiritual, so pure! a baptized, Christianized Greek face! A cross between Venus and the Virgin Mary! The outlines were purely, severely classical, such as I have since seen in the Psyche of the Naples gallery; but the large, tremulous, pathetic eyes redeemed them from statuesque coldness. They were eyes that thought, that looked deep into life, death, and eternity—so I said to myself as I gazed down on her, and held my breath with a kind of religious awe. The vision was all in white, as such visions must be, and the gauzy crape bonnet with its flowers upon her head, dissolved under my eyes into a sort of sacred aureole, such as surrounds the heads of saints. I saw her, and only her, through the remaining hour of church. I studied every movement. The radiant eyes were fixed upon the minister, and with an expression so sadly earnest that I blushed for my own wandering thoughts, and began to endeavor to turn my mind to the truths I was hearing told; but, after all, I thought more about her than the discourse. I saw her search the hymn-book for the hymn, and wished that I were down there to find it for her. I saw her standing up, and looking down at her hymns with the wonderful eyes veiled by long lashes, and singing—

"Call me away from earth and sense,

One sovereign word can draw me thence,

I would obey the voice divine,

And all inferior joys resign."

How miserably gross, and worldly, and unworthy I felt at that moment! How I longed for an ideal, superhuman spirituality,—something that should make me worthy to touch the hem of her garment!

When the blessing was pronounced, I hastened down and stood where I might see her as she passed out of church. I had not been alone in my discoveries: there had been dozens of others that saw the same star, and there were whisperings, and elbowings, and consultings, as a knot of juniors and seniors stationed themselves as I had done, to see her pass out.

As she passed by she raised her eyes slowly, and as it were by accident, and they fell like a ray of sunlight on one of our number,—Jim Fellows—who immediately bowed. A slight pink flush rose in her cheeks as she gracefully returned the salutation, and passed on. Jim was instantly the great man of the hour; he knew her, it seems.

"It's Miss Ellery, of Portland. Haven't you heard of her?" he said, with an air of importance. "She's the great beauty of Portland. They call her the 'little divinity.' Met her last summer, at Mount Desert," he added, with the comfortable air of a man in possession of the leading fact of the hour—the fact about which everybody else is inquiring.

I walked home behind her in a kind of trance, disdaining to join in what I thought the very flippant and unworthy comments of the boys. I saw the last wave of her white garments as she passed between the two evergreens in front of deacon Brown's square white house, which at that moment became to me a mysterious and glorified shrine; there the angel held her tabernacle.

At this moment I met Miss Dotha Brown, the deacon's eldest daughter, a rosy-cheeked, pleasant-faced girl, to whom I had been introduced the week before. Instantly she was clothed upon with a new interest in my eyes, and I saluted her with empressement; if not the rose, she at least was the clay that was imbibing the perfume of the rose; and I don't doubt that my delight at seeing her assumed the appearance of personal admiration. "What a charming Sunday," I said, with emphasis. "Perfectly charming," said Miss Brown, sympathetically.

"You have an interesting young friend staying with you, I observe," said I.

"Who, Miss Ellery? oh, yes. Oh! Mr. Henderson, she is the sweetest girl!" said Dotha, with effusion.

I didn't doubt it, and listened eagerly to her praises, and was grateful to Miss Brown for the warm invitation to "call" which followed. Miss Ellery was to make them a long visit, and she would be so happy to introduce me.

That evening Miss Ellery was a topic of excited discussion in our entry, and Jim Fellows plumed himself largely on his Mount Desert experiences, which he related in a way to produce the impression that he had been regarded with a favorable eye by the divinity.

I was in a state of silent indignation, at him, at all the rest of the boys, at everybody in general, being fully persuaded that they were utterly incapable of understanding or appreciating this wonderful creature.

"Hal, why don't you talk?" said one of them to me, when I had sat silent, pretending to read for a long time; "What do you think of her?"

"Oh, I'm no ladies' man, as you all know," I said, evasively, and actually pretended not to have remarked Miss Ellery except in a cursory manner.

Then followed a period of weeks and months, when that one image was never for a moment out of my thoughts. By a strange law of our being, a certain idea can accompany us everywhere, not stopping or interrupting the course of the thought, but going on in a sort of shadowy way with it, as an invisible presence.

The man or woman who cherishes an ideal is always liable to this accident, that the spiritual image often descends like a mantle, and invests some very ordinary person, who is, for the time being, transfigured,—"a woman clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet." It is not what there is in the person, but what there is in us, that gives this passage in life its critical power. It would seem as if there were in some men, and some women, preparation for a grand interior illumination and passion, like that hoard of mystical gums and spices which the phenix was fabled to prepare for its funeral pile; all the aspiration and poetry and romance, the upheaval toward an infinite and eternal good, a divine purity and rest, may be enkindled by the touch of a very ordinary and earthly hand, and, burning itself out, leave only cold ashes of experience.

Miss Ellery was a well-bred young lady, of decorous and proper demeanor, of careful religious education, of no particular strength either of mind or emotion, good tempered, and with an instinctive approbativeness that made her desirous to please every body, which created for her the reputation that Miss Brown expressed in calling her "a sweet girl." She was always most agreeable to those with whom she was thrown, and for the time being appeared to be, and was sincerely interested in them; but her mind was like a well-polished looking-glass, retaining not a trace of anything absent or distant.

She was gifted by nature with wonderful beauty, and beauty of that peculiar style that stirs the senses of the poetical and the ideal; her gentle approbativeness, and the graceful facility of her manner, were such as not at least to destroy the visions which her beauty created. In a quiet way she enjoyed being adored—made love to, but she never overstepped the bounds of strict propriety. She received me with graciousness, and I really think found something in my society which was agreeably stimulating to her. I was somewhat out of the common track of her adorers; my ardor and enthusiasm gave her a new emotion. I wrote poems to her, which she read with a graceful pensiveness and laid away among her trophies in her private writing-desk. I called her my star, my inspiration, my light, and she beamed down on me with a pensive purity. "Yes, she was delighted to have me read Tennyson to her," and many an hour when I should have been studying, I was lounging in the little front parlor of the Brown house, fancying myself Sir Galahad, and reading with emotion, how his "blade was strong, because his heart was pure;" and Miss Ellery murmured "How lovely!" and I was in paradise.

And then there came wonderful moonlight evenings—evenings when every leaf stirring had a penciled reproduction flickering in light and shade on the turf; and we walked together under arches of elm trees, and I talked and quoted poetry; and she listened and assented in the sweetest manner possible. All my hopes, my plans, my dreams, my speculations, my philosophies, came out to sun themselves under the magic of those lustrous eyes. Her replies and utterances were greatly in disproportion to mine; but I received them, and made much of them, as of old the priests of Delphi did with those of the inspired maiden. There must be deep meaning in it all, because she was a priestess; and I was not backward to supply it.

I have often endeavored to analyze the sources of the illusion cast over men by such characters as that of Miss Ellery. In their case the instinctive action of approbativeness assumes the semblance of human sympathy, and brings them for the time being into the life-sphere, and under the influence, of any person whom they wish to please, so that they with a temporary sincerity reflect back the ideas and feelings of others. There is just the same illusive sort of charm in this reflection of our own thoughts and emotions from another mind, as there is in the reflection of objects in a placid lake. There is no warmth and no reality to it; and yet, for the time being, it is often the most entrancing thing in the world, and gives back to you the glow of your own heart, the fervor of your imagination, and even every little flower of fancy, and twig of feeling, with a wonderful faithfulness of reproduction.

It is not real sympathy, because, like the image in the lake, it is only there when you are present; and when you are away, reflects with equal facility the next comer.

But men always have been, and to the end of time always will be, fascinated by such women, and will suppose this mere reflecting power of a highly polished surface to be the sympathetic response for which the heart longs.

So I had no doubt that Miss Ellery was a woman of all sorts of high literary tastes and moral heroisms, for there was nothing so high or so deep in the aspirations of poets or sages in my readings to her, that could not be reflected and glorified in those wonderful eyes.

Neither are such women hypocrites, as they are often called. What they give back to you is for the time being a sincere reflection, and if there is no depth to it, if it passes away with the passing hour, it is simply because their natures—smooth, shallow, and cold—have no deeper power of retention.

The fault lies in expecting more of a thing than there is in its nature—a fault we shall more or less all go on committing till the great curtain falls.

I wrote all about her to my mother; and received the usual cautionary maternal epistle, reminding me that I was yet far from that goal in life when I was warranted in asking any woman to be my wife; and suggesting that my taste might later with maturity; warning me against premature commitments—in short, saying all that good, anxious mothers usually say to young juniors in college in similar circumstances.

In reply, I told my mother that I had found a woman worthy the devotion of a life—a woman who would be inspiration and motive and reward. I extolled her purity and saintliness. I told my mother that she was forming and leading me to all that was holy and noble. In short I meant to win her though the seven labors of Hercules were to be performed seven times over to reach her.

Now the fact is, my mother might have saved herself her anxiety. Miss Ellery was perfectly willing to be my guiding star, my inspiration, my light, within reasonable limits, while making a visit in an otherwise rather dull town. She liked to be read to; she liked the consciousness of being incessantly admired, and would have made a very good image for some Church of the Perpetual Adoration; but after all, Miss Ellery was as incapable of forming an ineligible engagement of marriage with a poor college student, as the most sensible and collected of Walter Scott's heroines.

Looking back upon this part of my life, I can pity myself with as quiet and dispassionate a perception as if I were a third person. The illusion, for the time being, was so real, the feelings called up by it so honest and earnest and sacred; and supposing there had been a tangible reality to it—what might not such a woman have made of me, or of any man?

And suppose it pleased God to send forth an army of such women, as I thought her to be, among the lost children of men, women armed not only with the outward and visible sign of beauty, but with that inward and spiritual grace which beauty typifies, one might believe that the golden age would soon be back upon us.

Miss Ellery adroitly avoided all occasions of any critical commitment on my part or on her's. Women soon learn a vast amount of tact and diplomacy on that subject: but she gave me to understand that I was peculiarly congenial to her, and encouraged the outflow of all my romance with the gentlest atmosphere of indulgence. To be sure, I was not the only one whom she thus held with bonds of golden gossamer. She reigned a queen, and had a court at her feet, and the deacon's square, white, prosaic house bristled with the activity and vivacity of Miss Ellery's adorers.

Among them. Will Marshall was especially distinguished. Will was a senior, immensely rich, good-natured as the longest summer day is long, but so idle and utterly incapable of culture that only the liberality of the extra sum paid to a professor who held him in guardianship secured his stay in college classes. It has been my observation that money will secure a great variety of things in this lower world, and among others, will carry a very stupid fellow through college.

Will was a sort of favorite with us all. His good nature was without limit, and he scattered his money with a free hand, and so we generally spoke of him as "Poor Will;" a nice fellow, if he couldn't write a decent note, and blundered through all his recitations.

Will laid himself, so to speak, at Miss Ellery's feet. He was flush of bouquets and confectionery. He caused the village livery stable to import forthwith a turnout worthy to be a car of Venus herself.

I saw all this, but it never entered my head that Miss Ellery would cast a moment's thought other than those of the gentlest womanly compassion on poor Will Marshall.

The time of the summer vacation drew nigh, and with the close of the term closed the vision of my idyllic experiences with Miss Ellery. To the last, she was so gentle and easy to be entreated. Her lovely eyes cast on me such bright encouraging glances; and she accorded me a farewell moonlight ramble, wherein I walked not on earth, but in the seventh heaven of felicity. Of course there was nothing definite. I told her that I was a poor soldier of fortune, but might I only wear her name in my bosom, it would be a sacred talisman, and give strength to my arm, and she sighed, and looked lovely, and she did not say me nay.

I went home to my mother, and wearied that much-enduring woman, all through the vacation, with the hot and cold fits of my fever. Blessed souls! these mothers, who bear and watch and rear the restless creatures, who by and by come to them with the very heart gone out of them for love of another woman—some idle girl, perhaps, that never knew what it was either to love or care, and that plays with hearts as kittens do with pinballs!

I wrote to Miss Ellery letters long, overflowing, and got back little neatly-worded notes on scented paper, speaking in a general way of the charms of friendship.

But the first news that met me on my return to college broke my soap-bubble at one touch.


"I told her that I was a poor soldier of fortune, but might I only wear her name in my bosom, it would be a sacred talisman, and give strength to my arm; and she sighed and looked lovely, and she did not say me nay."

"Hurrah! Hal—who do you guess is engaged?"

"I don't know."


"I couldn't guess."

"Why, Miss Ellery—engaged to Bill Marshall."

Alnaschar, in the Arabian tale, could not have been more astonished when his basket of glass-ware fell in glittering nothingness. I stood stupid with astonishment.

"She engaged to Will Marshall!—why, boys, he's a fool!"

"But you see he's rich. Oh, it's all arranged; they are to be married next month, and go to Europe for their wedding tour," said Jim Fellows.

And so my idol fell from its pedestal—and my first dream dissolved.

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